Compared to the work by Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter could easily be forgotten in a part that seems much less showy – but if you want to know how much Kim Hunter contributed to A Streetcar named Desire, then simply watch other taped versions and see how actresses like Beverly D’Angelo or Diane Lane don’t even achieve 1% of the greatness that Kim Hunter did.The greatness of the 1951-version of A Streetcar named Desire comes from the entire cast – all actors play their parts with such dedication that any other attempt can only pale in comparison. And so, just like Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando forever left their marks on these characters, Kim Hunter did the same with Stella. She realized all the part’s potentials and created a very believable character who both fits to the world of Blanche and to that of Stanley is torn between them. In so many great scenes, she shows this confusion, how she is worried about Blanche but it is impossible for her to leave Stanley (personally, it never bothered me that the ending of the movie was changed because I am sure that Stella will be back with Stanley in 5 minutes, no matter what she says).
And, of course, never before has walking down a stair been so sexy. The way she looks at Marlon Brando, with so much lust and passion, getting everything out of that single moment to defy her whole character. But apart from that chilling scene, Kim Hunter has a showy and wonderfully written part which she plays to perfection. Her chemistry with Marlon Brando is simply outstanding, they both have so much fire and lust between them, even during their many fights. She is not afraid to show how much passion and lust is hidden inside Stella – the way she lies in her bed after she returned to him in the night, the way she tells Blanche ‘I was sort of thrilled by it…’ and, of course, right at the beginning when the first thing she tells Blanche about her husband ‘Isn’t he wonderful looking?’ Immediately in these first scenes she shows her feelings for Stanley, telling Blanche ‘I can hardly stand when he’s away for a night…when he’s away for a week, I nearly go wild…When he comes back, I cry in his lap like a baby…’ and later she tells Blanche that Stanley is the only one in his business who will achieve anything – there is an unquestioning faith in him that Kim Hunter shows perfectly.
But Kim Hunter also works wonderfully with Vivien Leigh, believably showing her love for her sister, her worries for her health and her future. It’s a strong and totally believable performance and Kim Hunter is able to capture all the necessary emotions perfectly and she also never slides in the background – she holds her own against Marlon Brando’s and Vivien Leigh’s powerhouse performances and that is no small feat.